Quick Lessons From Thieves

how scammers win on Google

As a website manager, you often come across copyright issues. In most cases, these issues concern copyrighted material on your client’s website that has been published without permission.

However, sometimes copyright infringement can take a very ugly turn where the website owner becomes the victim.

I’ve been observing Google’s search developments for over 15 years. To be quite frank, I struggle to comprehend their lack of progress in building a better and fairer search engine.

Being one of the biggest companies in the world and having access to the greatest talents in the technology sector, you would think that their Googlebot would be much more advanced by now. At least advanced enough to detect and deal with plagiarism and theft.

I would argue that by now they have a social responsibility to protect the public and most of all, the legitimate businesses that use their products.

Without further ado, let me show you how the almighty Google search engine can miserably fail and penalize your website in error.

Google fails at remembering the original web content

Let’s say you run a website that sells an informational product that consists of a set of ebooks and a video course. As an inspired web entrepreneur, you spent a lot of money and time on developing your product and your website.

Google indexes your site successfully and because it is loading fast, it’s responsive, and contains well-written information that people share, Google ranks it at the top of its search results for the relevant keywords.

Your product and sales funnel are quite good and as a result, your website conversions reach one percent, which is not too bad.

Your business is finally making money.

Enter the scammers and the thieves

As soon as your website becomes slightly popular in its niche, enter the online scammers and thieves who blatantly copy your entire content and your product.

Believe it or not, there are legions of people that will buy your product and then resell it without any permission.

Some will even be arrogant enough to claim a refund on your product, or what’s worse, force a chargeback with their card issuer. (As a seller, you are additionally charged by your merchant account provider for each chargeback. This fee can be quite high.)

If your product is an informational product, such as an ebook or an offline video course, it’s very easy to copy it or modify it to show different logos and point to different sources, if needed.

In most cases, however, thieves don’t bother changing the stolen product, they usually start selling it online as quickly as they only can, and at a fraction of your original price.

Some scammers will spin the copied content so it seems original to Google, and even though the spun copy makes no sense to an average reader, it still gets ranked by the ‘most innovative search engine in the world and shown in its search results at the top.

Is this fair?

No, of course not, but unfortunately this happens quite often, especially for long-tail keywords.

Sure, Google employs some cool technologies in its search algorithms to eliminate and filter out irrelevant content, for example, Latent Semantic Index (LSI), but they still fail on many occasions.

Now, let’s go back to the scammers and assume that they just copied your content and posted it online without making any changes. This plagiarised content gets indexed but it gets penalized. As a result, it disappears from search results.

Google finally does its job correctly. (In theory, because I know for a fact that raw, duplicated content can still rank very high in searches, and sometimes, although usually only temporarily, rank higher than the original content. Yet for the sake of argument let’s assume that Google’s duplicate content penalty works.)

Six months down the road, your business is not doing so great anymore and you decide to improve your website to increase conversions from one to two percent.

You modify your content in hope that it will increase your conversions. You try to tweak your landing page and test it as much as possible.

As a result of your tests and acquired data, your original web content changes.

So now, the scammer’s content that has been plagiarized six months ago becomes unique and has its penalty lifted. Soon after, it begins to appear in Google’s search results for the relevant keywords.

Now your business has some serious competition.

A few weeks go by and your sales are suffering. You look at your content again and decide to use some of those old paragraphs that were used originally. You add some of them back into your web copy. After all, this was your original content.

So what happens now? Google indexes your changes and penalizes your website for duplicate content.

Your most important landing page disappears from search results. Your sales completely plummet.

Scammers win.

Why? Because Google fails to remember the original content and where it was first published.

This type of scenario plays out all the time. Thousands of businesses lose money every day because Google lacks automated mechanisms that would protect original content and its authors.

A possible solution that may work for some businesses

Google kindly offers a solution to the above-mentioned issue. You can report an alleged copyright infringement with them using this online form:


Naturally, you will need a Google account to start and complete the process. In the report, you will be able to list the websites that stole your content, but it may take Google a very long time to actually act on this report.

google's copyright removal request

Unless you’re a known company with strong copyright protections already in place, there are no guarantees that Google will proceed favorably with your request.

Scaring your scammers with lawsuits usually doesn’t work

As a possible solution, you could also contact scammers and thieves and threaten an impending lawsuit against them, unless they remove your content and product.

Sometimes this will work, but unfortunately, many scammers don’t live in jurisdictions where you could legally enforce such removals.

These are usually individuals that don’t have much to lose and know how to cover their traces. Unless it is a registered business that is clearly infringing on your copyright, following up with legal procedures and chasing individuals who live somewhere abroad in China, Africa, Russia, etc. makes no financial sense.

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